Canberra Raiders co-captain Jarrod Croker, who recently celebrated his 300th game, has expressed his willingness to play on a reduced contract if it means extending his career with the club for another season. Croker’s return from career-threatening injuries and his milestone achievement have been a source of inspiration and positivity for the team and fans. Despite considering retirement and receiving advice from coach Ricky Stuart to quit, Croker has proven his resilience and commitment to the sport.
Due to a string of injuries that limited Croker to just 13 games over the past two years, he has not triggered the option in his current contract that would have secured his place until 2024. As one of Canberra’s highest earners on a reported $700,000 per year, Croker now finds himself without a contract for the upcoming season. However, following his recall by Stuart and with the support of his teammates, the veteran centre is prepared to accept a significantly reduced deal if CEO Don Furner and Stuart can accommodate him within the club’s salary cap.
Croker stated, “If the club wants me to keep playing, I’ll keep playing for whatever they need.” He recognizes that if he continues playing next year, it would likely be on a reduced contract, and he is okay with that. His love for the game and willingness to contribute in any role make him a valuable asset to the team.
While Croker acknowledges that he cannot take up salary cap space, he has attempted to discuss his future with CEO Don Furner, who is currently on holiday. Once Furner returns, Croker intends to have a conversation with him and coach Ricky Stuart to determine his next steps. Despite the uncertainty, Croker remains positive, feeling good physically and enjoying his time on the field.
The Canberra Raiders already have a strong lineup of players for the coming seasons, particularly in the backline. Xavier Savage, Albert Hopoate, and Matt Timoko are all signed until the end of 2025. Sebastian Kris and Nick Cotric also have existing contracts. They have depth and talent in their roster, with Savage potentially becoming the long-term fullback.
While the Raiders have flexibility in their salary cap following Jack Wighton‘s departure, any reduced contract extension for Croker would need to meet the NRL‘s salary cap regulations. It is worth noting that the NRL‘s veteran player allowance for this year is $300,000, which can be shared among multiple players in any club.
Croker understands the realities of his situation and the challenges of securing another season. He also has aspirations for his post-playing career. The local junior finds appeal in specialist goal-kicking or outside back coaching roles. However, he humbly acknowledges that one does not become a head coach until experiencing the hardships of getting sacked.
Despite the previous negativity he felt while injured and unable to play at his best, Croker has regained his love for watching footy again this year. He finds joy in spectating all games rather than solely focusing on the Raiders. This newfound appreciation for the sport is a testament to his renewed mindset and positive outlook on his future.